Founded in 2011, the Plastic Free July campaign is the brainchild of the Plastic Free Foundation, a global social movement that is working towards a plastic free world. It is impossible to be unaware of the impact that plastic has had on the world, both positive and negative. Plastic is a lightweight, easily mouldable material with a wide range of uses. Unfortunately, only about 9% of single-use plastic has ever been recycled.
To celebrate Plastic Free July and the core value that ‘small changes add up to a big difference’, we’ve gathered some of our favourite articles on the topic.
Polystyrene is a chemically stable plastic that pollutes many natural environments. Unfortunately, few mechanisms can break down this man-made polymer into its naturally occurring components.
Research into the polystyrene-digesting capabilities of the bacteria genus Exiguobacterium sp RIT 594 by Dr André Hudson and his team at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, USA, has uncovered the specific ring-cleaving mechanism which the bacterium uses to degrade the plastic.
Bioinformatics, anaerobic culture analysis, and Fourier-transform infrared spectroscopy provided evidence of aromatic ring attack as the primary mechanism by which Exiguobacterium sp RIT 594 breaks down polystyrene.
Marine litter research in the Caribbean’s Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is imperative for protecting local communities and ecosystems from the effects of plastic pollution.
Work to resolve the damage caused by marine debris, however, is being undermined by ‘parachute science’, where scientists from outside SIDS conduct research and leave without consulting or collaborating with local experts.
Dr Aleke Stöfen-O’Brien and her colleagues from the World Maritime University, Sweden, are tackling this important issue to promote more equitable and sustainable ocean governance and international scientific collaboration.
Two of the most important environmental concerns of our times are CO2 emissions and plastic pollution. Dr Xiangzhou Yuan, Research Professor at the Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering at Korea University (Seoul), and Dr Shuai Deng, Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the School of Tianjin University (China), propose an approach that uses one problem to solve the other.
They upcycled waste plastic bottles to a material able to attract CO2 and reduce CO2 emissions from large point sources into the atmosphere. Their solution was shown to be carbon negative, removing more CO2 than required for the production and operation of the proposed system.
Ocean currents are a conveyor belt spanning the entire globe; they are transporting minerals, nutrients, organisms, and other particles across vast distances. However, the full extent of the roles played by these flows is still poorly understood.
Dr Rui Caldeira, Director of the Oceanic Observatory of Madeira in Portugal, and his collaborators Dr Iria Sala, Cláudio Cardoso and Maria João Lima use the latest computer modelling techniques to understand how ocean currents interact with four archipelagos in the northeast Atlantic Ocean.
The team’s discoveries are shedding new light on how the region is affected by the growing problem of plastic pollution, and how similar processes are unfolding worldwide.
Plastics and rubbers are some of the most important materials in advanced societies, and hundreds of millions of tonnes are produced every year. Devising efficient and cost-effective ways to recycle these materials has become a crucial environmental concern.
Although degradable plastic-based materials can be produced, their practical use is limited by their vulnerability under environmental stress. Professor Junpeng Wang and his team at the University of Akron, USA, have developed a new strategy that allows them to control the stability of a polymer.
Their mechanochemistry approach locks the polymer into a stable non-depolymerisable state during material operation and unlocks it for recycling at the its end of life.
Consider taking the plunge this month and reducing your plastic waste – take the challenge to find out what you could do to help de-plastic the planet.